Another quick note on Twitter & music

Got some interesting, and mixed, reactions to yesterday’s note about Twitter & orchestral performance.  Here are two more bits about Twitter & music:

1. Coudal points to 406 bands who Twitter.

2. Wired’s Epicenter blog assesses Tra.kz, billed as a “new tool for putting music on Twitter.” While unimpressed by some aspects, Epicenter does say the Tra.kz player “could prove beneficial for labels, artists and users looking to distribute music on the Twitter platform, as well as Twitter users looking for new music. The player includes play and pause, a short version of the song’s URL (of course), and, perhaps most importantly, buttons that let listeners to re-tweet or otherwise share the song. (Bands must host the MP3s themselves.)”

These examples have more to do with promotion/connection/distribution than with changing the  nature of a performance (like the earlier example), but still worth noting.

The future of listening is … reading?

Here’s a randomly encountered post on the subject of how orchestras can use Twitter:

An orchestra gives a concert. Someone sends commentary tweets, in real time while the music plays, describing what’s going on. I don’t know how pinpoint the time accuracy might be, so maybe you can’t time something precisely to a downbeat. But you could certainly indicate major sections of a piece.

But it gets better. You could have a dozen Twitter streams. What does the conductor think about, while she’s conducting the piece? What’s the hardest part for the principal flute? What passage in the horns makes the principal trumpet player’s hair stand on end? All kinds of people in the orchestra could send tweets during the performance, or rather could write them in advance, and have them sent out at the proper time by others. Someone in the audience could decide which Twitter streams to follow, or could follow them all.

Knowing full well that I’ll be slammed as a dinosaur etc. if I say anything at all to question the mightiness of social media and like that: I find this a little odd. In-concert tweets “describing what’s going on”? Um, there’s an orchestra performing; check it out. (I’m remembering an old David Mamet interview where he talks about disliking it when reporters use a tape recorder: “Why don’t you try listening?” ) Or  maybe you’d get a tweet that says, “This is the good part, starting now.” Or just: “Applaud.”

And what’s this about what the conductor is thinking about while conducting — is the idea that s/he is waving the baton with one hand and texting with the other?

Having said all that, the problem here may just be that the example is throwing me off, and there’s some more interesting/useful application of the idea. But my immediate reaction is that this implies that an orchestra, by itself, simply playing music, isn’t worth your time. Like maybe what the audience really wants is a Twitter feed for their favorite baseball team, so they can pay attention to the game during the boring parts of the musical program.

What do you think?

LastFM? iLike? MOG? Your opinions sought.

I’ve toyed with both LastFM and Pandora. I have not used iLike or MOG, which like LastFm seem to turn on a more “social”-oriented idea.

Do you have opinions about these networks/services — or others?

Please chime in, in the comments, if you do.

Thanks.

PS: No Consumed this weekend.

My (sort of) data-driven Top Ten songs of 2008

Later this week I’ll come back to the survey I posted the other day (so you still have time to weigh in if you want), but today I am going to reprise something I did last year: my quasi-data-driven list of the 10 best songs of the year just ended.

First the list; then, after the jump, for those curious, an absurdly long breakdown of related personal-listening data that (partly) shaped the list, and some mild observations about the problem with “best of the year” lists.

  1. “Poison Dart,” The Bug featuring Warrior Queen
  2. “Count It Off,”  Saturday Knights
  3. “Albert Goes West,” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  4. “Da Feelin’,” Nightmares On Wax
  5. “Get It Up (Radioclit mix),” Esau Mwamwaya, Santogold, M.I.A
  6. “Bag of Hammers,” Thao
  7. “Ooh Yeah,” Moby
  8. “Thinking About You,” Irma Thomas
  9. “You Want the Candy,” The Raveonettes
  10. “Play Your Part (Pt. 1),” Girl Talk

Okay. So I’ll quickly acknowledge that Cousin Lymon is going to give me shit about the Raveonettes and Moby, but the explanation that follows should not be taken as defensive! Read more

More on bands and brands

I don’t know much about The Fray. But when they cut a deal with ABC, they are not kidding around. Not only did they debut their newest single on [edit: a promo for Lost during -- see comments] Grey’s Anatomy (“Viewers will be directed to abc.com, where they can find a three-minute version of the clip as well as a link to iTunes; there they can buy the single, which goes to radio the next day”), Billboard reports:

The partnership between ABC and the Fray … also includes an agreement for the band to appear on the American Music Awards, “Good Morning America” and the outdoor concert series on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” ABC will use “You Found Me” as the promo song for this season of “Lost,” and discussions are underway to use the band’s music on sister channel ESPN during the height of football season.

Wow. I guess somebody still believes network TV can move product!

[Via Songs For Soap.]

What does your sound brand like?

Anybody out there read the blogs on AdAge.com? Just curious.

Anyway, I was poking around that site earlier this week, and noticed a blog called “Songs for Soap,” and this entry asking “Does Every Brand Have A Sound?

We all know that there is no longer the slightest stigma involved in a band, indie or established, renting its music to a brand, but I was still a little surprised to read just how far from those forgotten notions we’ve come: The entry concludes with the marketers actually lecturing musicians about how to make sure they’re worthy of such collaborations!

“Artists need to think of themselves as brands; what they stand for, what their values are and what message they want to give,” if they are to succeed in partnering with consumer brands.

So to turn the item’s headline around, the question for musicians, I guess, is: Does your sound have a brand? Maybe there’s a future career here — consultants who help bands write their mission statements and so on.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, this September 4, 2006 Consumed addressed Umpqua Bank’s unusual music-branding work with Rumblefish, whose founder is the first person I can remember articulating the “what does your brand sound like” pitch.

On a related note, the same blog has an entry on Girl Talk cutting a long-form ad “I’m a PC” ad. Interesting ona number of levels, and I hadn’t heard about it. (And again for what it’s worth: My July 20, 2008 column on Girl Talk.)

I have seen rock and roll future … and it’s a full range of lifestyle products!


The band Of Montreal recently published something that reads like a short manifesto, or possibly a parody of a manifesto, with the title, “We Will Only Propogate Exceptional Objects.” The first paragraph riffs  on identity:

To project our self identity into the outer and, to amplify the howl of our self expression, we have many tools at our disposal; our art, our clothing and hair style, the way we talk…, and, for a lot of us, the objects that populate our living spaces. There are myriad vendors, attempting to contribute to our identity campaigns, creating rather dull and uninspiring products. Making the production of any new objects, at this point, almost seem criminal.

This sounds like a complaint about consumer culture. Or, again, a parody of a complaint about consumer culture. “The howl of our self expression”?

Anyway, whatever the intent, it goes in a direction that seems a little odd after having just asserted that “making the production” of new identity-stuff seems “almost criminal.” Because the real point of the piece is to announce that the band’s next record will not simply be a record. It will be a “collection.”

Skeletal Lamping Collection 08 includes T-shirts, tote bags, buttons, wall decals, posteres and even a paper lantern. The idea is that with most of these objects, if you buy the thing, you get a code for a digital download of, you know, the band’s next batch of music. If you’d like this entire lifestyle suite so that you can immerse yourself fully in the Of Montreal-ness of your “identity campaign,” that’ll be $90.

I guess this is a creative way of promoting a new release — making it more “relevant,” as they say.

It also seems like kind of a reversal of the longstanding trend of trying to make products “cool” by associating them with certain music, whether it’s the background at a hip retailer, or the soundtrack to a TV ad. Maybe at this point music seems incomplete without products — and it’s the music that now needs to be made “cool” by being associated with on-trend merch.

On what I think is a very related note: Carrie Brownstein writes about the death of the “rock star” idea here. More about that later, but a line from closing paragraph: “Maybe the death of the rock star is due to the fact that brands are the new gods and musicians merely the preachers.”

Via PSFK and Marginal Utility.

Expressions of music fandom in the digital era

Carrie Brownstein says she’s gotten rid of her concert T’s and stickers and posters and the like, and that the faded LP jacket no longer works as a signifier of musical devotion. She writes:

But just because our walls are no longer covered in posters — and our outerwear is free of patches or buttons — that doesn’t mean we don’t want people to know that fandom courses through our veins. And it’s not just fandom we want to prove, but full-on expertise.

These days, we write blogs. We make our iTunes playlist public at the office. (“Dave, I didn’t realize you were such a Yes fan. Every album? Wow! And what’s with all the obscure Brazilian post-punk? Pray tell.”) We use song names in the subject lines of emails and hope the recipient gets the reference. We make mix tapes to be played at parties, we DJ, we download songs as our cell-phone ringtones, and we name our kids after Dylan and Beatles songs. Maybe these things constitute new forms of wear, tear and overuse.

Possibly so. Brownstein goes on to ask her readers for their views on how “we go about proving our love for a band or artist these days.”

But I guess what I see between the lines here is a shift from fandom in the form of devotion to and alliance with a particular artist or artists, to something more like showing off personal taste. A Sleater-Kinney T-shirt just says I like Sleater-Kinney; a playlist filled with obscure stuff you’ve never heard of, including maybe one overlooked/underappreciated Sleater-Kinney gem, says something different. Ideally, if you listen to and like the playlist, then it says I have awesome taste. The goal isn’t to make you a fan of the Sleater-Kinney. It’s to make you a fan of me.

Maybe that’s all obvious. Or equally possible: All wrong.

Just thinking out loud.

Playlist

A friend  who is savvy-about-Web-music-stuff for a living assures me I can’t get into trouble for uploading stuff to 8Tracks.com, so I’ve been toying with it a little. I have mixed feelings. I buy a lot of stuff on iTunes, and can’t upload those songs (I understand that this is because of Apple’s technlogy/rights decisions.) More annoying is that when I test listen, the tracks don’t seem to stay in the order I want them to play in. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Either way, this is my batch of eight songs I acquired in the month of August and have enjoyed. It’s not my top eight — it’s just eight that I could upload.

Hip-hop album cover aesthetics follow-up

In my recent writeup on the aesthetics that I associate with Cash Money records in New Orleans in the early 2000s, I was a little hasty  — and, as revealed in the comments to that post, a little sloppy.

Peter pointed out that the No Limit records also had the look, and that the look in many cases came from Pen & Pixel, a design firm in Houston. And Tree Frog passed along this Pen & Pixel retrospective from earlier this year, in which Not A Blogger declares the firm to be “the John Waters of the Hip Hop album art world.”

Apparently Pen & Pixel’s founder himself weighed in to that retrospective, to say that while that company is still around, he and other originals are gone, and now have a firm called Rapid Design Concepts.

He also says:

The company at its peak (1998-2001) was billing almost 6 million dollars a year and was producing more that 23 covers per week. Yes, some were cheesy, some were insane and some were amazing…but the main thing to remember was PPG was a business enterprise, its function was to please the customers…we had thousands of maverick ideas that would have pushed and developed Hip-hop graphics further and faster…but the clients demand for the “same ol’ Bling Bling, Ho’s and cars kept the monster fed.

Then other comments started coming in, many with questions about how particular covers were put together — what was intentionally “less finished” looking, etc. Pretty interesting.

One last bit from another of the P&P founder’s comments, speaking rather directly to the aesthetics issues that interest me:

I also find it funny when people comment on how terrible the covers were, yet these are the same covers that helped the largest hip-hop artists make Billions! (not millions) And are now featured in museums and galleries. The same covers that set a time period in musical history. So we were doing something right!

Thanks for the comments, Peter & Tree Frog.

Next for Muxtape?

Back in April I mused here about Muxtape — I liked it but wasn’t clear on certain legal issues etc. (You may recall I was not impressed by the Muxtape boilerplate: ““By uploading a song you agree that you have permission to let Muxtape use it.” Uh-huh.)

Quick update: Listening Post notes the site presently says it “will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.”

Maybe this is actually good news. It had to happen at some point, after all. So I hope they can now work something out and make it possible for the thing to continue, and for people like me to use it, in a public way, without concern, etc.

[UPDATE: A secret admirer whispers that I should just use 8Tracks.com, described here. I'll look into that soon.]

More shameful listening

Quasi-follow-up to this post: Looks like there’s one of those tag things going around, asking people to name the five “guiltiest pleasures” on their iPods. (No word on whether Zune loyalists can participate.) Here’s what Marginal Revolution says. Here’s what Asymmetrical Information says.

An interesting music-and-identity moment — essentially you can brag about what you’re not guilty about admitting you like!

In The New York Times Magazine: Girl Talk

MASH-UP MODEL:
Music you could never buy on iTunes tests the pay-what-want business model

In Consumed this week, a subject that’s come up before on Murketing (most recently last week): Girl Talk, the Pittsburgh-based musical-collage-maker.

It’s one thing for various name-brand artists to dabble with giveaways. It’s something else for a creator who has operated artistically, financially and even legally outside the structures of the traditional recording business for his entire career to do so. Will “Feed the Animals” make Girl Talk a rock star? And what would that even mean?

Read the column in the July 20, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Illegal Art site is here; direct link to access Feed The Animals is here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

Music, identity, shame, irony, and Styx

Interesting Pop Matters rave for Girl Talk here. I’m particularly interested in this:

I used to keep bands like Styx and Electric Light Orchestra out of my iTunes library—despite liking many of their songs—for fear someone cooler than me would see it and scoff. Although that never happened, I do recall doing it to people on more than one occasion. No longer will I laugh when the first artist in someone’s iTunes is 2Pac. Girl Talk has made it more than just ironic to like bands like Heart, Cat Stevens, and Puff Daddy – he’s made it cool again. He’s shown me (and probably others) that there can be just as much musical value in a mainstream, MTV rap song as there is in an Icelandic minimalist techno song, or sometimes even more.

I’ve had several parallel discussions with various people about music and identity lately, and this hits on one of the themes: The music we shun.

Related note: If I’m reading it right, the guy who wrote this is 22 years old, and I’ve wondered lately (specifically in relation to Girl Talk’s sample selections) if people that age even recognize Heart and Styx, let alone “Jessie’s Girl.” And what about a 22-year-old in ten years? Will s/he still somehow be unable to avoid having heard “Barracuda” and “Grand Illusion” ten million times — or will that phenomenon eventually fade.

Related note to the related note: I love Puff Daddy being thrown in with Heart and Cat Stevens as equal examples of music that he liked only ironically before. (And is 2Pac really as scoff-worth as ELO? These kids today…. )

Related note to all of the above: If I’m right that he’s 22 … pretty decent writing!

More interesting than Radiohead

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty curious about the Girl Talk release.

It’s getting a lot of attention, although nothing like Radiohead did. And although Girl Talk is clearly following in Radiohead’s footsteps by releasing a record on a pay-what-you-want basis, in my view this is a lot more significant. And not just because Radiohead generally bores me to tears.

In addition to that factor, it’s because, as I’ve said before, the whole Radiohead thing was imperfect as an indicator of where the music business might be headed for the simple reason that Radiohead is in fact a creation of the major-label system. The band benefited mightily from the precise traditional band-building method that anti-label zealouts are so fond of attacking. So when those zealots said that In Rainbows demonstrated the death of big music and a portent of a new, enlightened future, their argument was rather seriously undercut by the fact that Radiohead is a product of big music. Period.

So what happens when an artist who was not built by the labels starts dabbling with new distribution methods, and, potentially, builds a major name for him/her/itself in the process?

Girl Talk is at least potentially a more interesting case study to watch.

Plus, Girl Talk gets bonus points for being basically a mashup artist who uses massive numbers of samples to build songs, and apparently doesn’t clear any of it with rights-holders. So he’s pretty thoroughly postmodern.

Thus I’m watching this with interest. (And listening. I paid $10 for the release, and have been listening to it over the weekend.)

The Globe and Mail adds this interesting detail:

If you offer to pay nothing for the download, you get sent to a page with a form that asks you why you are paying nothing, and then gives you a series of check boxes, including:

– I may donate later
– I can’t afford to pay
– I don’t really like Girl Talk
– I don’t believe in paying for music
– I have already purchased this album
– I don’t value music made from sampling
– I am part of the press, radio, or music industry
– Other reasons

I’d love to see the results of that!

Radiohead, of course, never did open up about who paid what for In Rainbows.

Maybe Girl Talk will turn out to be cooler than that….